JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars’ 30-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks at EverBank Field on Sunday.
*1.The Jaguars are in first place … *The Jaguars’ victory over Seattle and Tennessee’s 12-7 loss at Arizona Sunday moved the Jaguars into sole possession of first place in the AFC South. It’s the first time Jacksonville has been in first place with three games remaining in the regular season since 2010.
Images of Jacksonville's Week 14 matchup with Seattle.
2. … and they will finish above .500. Sunday’s victory assures the Jaguars will finish above .500 for the first time since 2007. Loftier goals remain within reach. Still, clinching a winning record for the first time in a decade is huge.
*3.This team just wins. *Sunday’s game wasn’t necessarily defense-oriented. Or offense-oriented. Or even special teams-oriented. The Jaguars just made big plays at big times and beat a team that has made five consecutive playoff appearances.
*4.The Jaguars can win in December. *They’re 2-0 this season in December. For a team that hasn’t played meaningful games in December in a long time, that’s significant.
5.The Jaguars can win at EverBank Field. That’s four consecutive victories at the ‘Bank. All that talk in October that they couldn’t win there just looks sillier and sillier.
*6.Leonard Fournette can gut it out. *The rookie running back said last month he didn’t expect his ankle to be 100 percent again this season. One hundred percent or not, he ran with the same toughness and effort Sunday that he showed throughout the first half of the season. Every one of his 101 yards felt critical Sunday.
*7.Josh Lambo is clutch. *Not only did he convert all three field goals and all three extra points Sunday, he converted from 51 yards early in the fourth quarter. Without any of the three field goals, that game feels much different at the end.
*8.Blake Bortles can win big games … *This was the biggest game of Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles’ career. He played perhaps his best game: 268 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions. He threw two third-quarter touchdowns, and his 75-yard bomb to Keelan Cole for a third-quarter touchdown was far from his only perfect, clutch throw. The Jaguars couldn’t win Sunday without Bortles playing well. Credit to him for coming through when it mattered.
*9. … and he’s maybe the Jaguars’ quarterback of the future. *This is an offseason topic, but Bortles has played increasingly well for the last month. He has had the best game of his career four or five times this season. Sunday was the sort of game that rewrites narratives.
*10.The Jaguars’ can run … *Running has been a struggle for this team in the last month. They rushed for 156 yards and a touchdown Sunday. The backs rushed for 4.8 yards per carry. Most importantly, the Jaguars ran when they needed to run. This was December football and the Jaguars closed the game running. That matters.
*11. … and the offensive line can pass block. *The line not only didn’t allow Bortles to be sacked, the Seahawks hurried Bortles just once. This was a very good Seattle pass rush – and this was a phenomenal effort from a unit that had struggled in recent weeks.
*12.A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey are just, plain good. *Bouye intercepted Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson twice and Jalen Ramsey intercepted him once. The two have combined for 10 interceptions this season, with Bouye leading the team with six and Ramsey next with four.
13.Malik Jackson is playing at a high level. This has been true of the veteran defensive tackle in recent weeks. He finished with two quarterback hurries and sacked Wilson on the Seahawks’ final series.
*14.Paul Posluszny … *What more is there to say about the veteran linebacker? He has replaced Telvin Smith in the nickel package the last two weeks. He led the team in tackles against Indianapolis last week and had two more tackles for loss Sunday. When the Jaguars clinched their winning season Sunday, it assured Posluszny of playing for a winning team for the first time in 11 seasons.
*15.Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole look like the future … *It’s impossible to overstate the contribution of these two rookie wide receivers. They caught a combined eight passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. Westbrook didn’t play in the first nine games of the season and Cole spent much of that time looking overwhelmed. On Sunday, both came up huge in the biggest game of their careers to date.
*16. … and Marqise Lee deserves credit, too. *Remember early in the season? Lee was understandably criticized for several key drops. The four-year veteran has come up big in the last two games. Lee caught five passes for 65 yards Sunday; all five passes went for first downs.
*17. Jaydon Mickens matters on special teams. *The game began in difficult fashion for the Jaguars’ special teams – a couple of big penalties and a lost fumble by running back Corey Grant. Mickens more than made up for those miscues with his 72-yard punt third-quarter punt return that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Fournette that made it 24-10 in the third quarter. Mickens is now tied for the AFC lead with a 13.1-yard average on 18 returns.
*18.The Jaguars are for real. *If you didn’t believe before, it’s OK to believe now. The Jaguars have victories over Pittsburgh (11-2), Baltimore (7-6), the Los Angeles Chargers (7-6) and Seattle (8-5). This team can win in December. This team is good. How good? Stay tuned.